A 2009 study urged doctors to avoid prescribing antipsychotic drugs to Alzheimer’s patients. However, many Texas nursing homes continue this deadly practice.
In March 2009, a group of English doctors published a study in the medical journal, Lancet Neurology. The study, “Antipsychotic drugs for dementia: a balancing act,” found an increased risk of death in elderly patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia who were given antipsychotic drugs. Doctors were urged to stop prescribing antipsychotic drugs to elderly people with Alzheimer’s. However, the practice continues.
In many Texas nursing homes, anti-psychotic medications are commonly given to elderly patients with dementia in order to reduce symptoms such as aggressiveness, mood swings, and wandering. The drugs subdue the patients so they are easier to manage. This used to be standard practice.
Between 2001 and 2004, a team of British doctors followed 165 nursing home patients aged 67 to 100 with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Half the patients were taken off antipsychotic medications and given a placebo. The other continued to take their antipsychotic drugs. The doctors found that patients taking the antipsychotic medications were twice as likely to die as the unmedicated patients.
Of the 83 patients taking antipsychotic medications, 39 were dead after a year. Of the 82 taking placebos, only 27 were dead after a year. In both groups, most of the deaths were due to pneumonia.
Why? Doctors aren’t sure, but they believe that the drugs may cause damage to the brain and that the sedating effects may cause trouble swallowing, balance problems, and increase susceptibility to infections.
The doctors advised that environmental or behavioral therapy should be the first option to control disruptive behaviors associated with dementia. Antipsychotic drugs should only be used in emergency situations when the patient is extremely distressed or distraught or poses a danger to him- or herself or others. The drugs should be prescribed for short periods of time and only under careful medical supervision. After three months, the amount of medication should be gradually reduced.
However, medication is a common way of controlling patients in U.S. nursing homes. It is not uncommon for patients with dementia to be given antipsychotic drugs for periods of one year or longer despite the known dangers.
If you believe your loved one is being unnecessarily medicated, speak to the medical director of her nursing home. Your action may save a life.
To learn more about overmedication and other forms of Texas nursing home abuse, request a free copy of our book, Warning Signs of Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse. To consult with a Dallas nursing-home-abuse lawyer, please call the Rasansky Law Firm at 1-877-405-4313.